Monday, 28 February 2011

Screen Hide

ARC - 1400hrs - cold, overcast, ne  - A grim, grey afternoon with a keen north-easterly lowering the temperature to just above freezing. From the Screen hide two groups of Smew totalled 10 `redheads` and one `white nun`. They were feeding on small roach or rudd which they dived for close to the reed bed. Little else of note apart from a flock of 55 Curlews that flew in off the bay calling, then headed inland. 

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Lade Pits

Lade Pits - Cold, sunny start, rain later, nw2 -  A couple of visits to the local patch either end of the day. On south pit a single `redhead` Smew and 15 Goldeneyes, plus another six on north pit. Reed Bunting, Chiffchaff and Skylark of note and a pair of Oystercatchers prospecting for a nest site on the scaffold island.

Friday, 25 February 2011

First Come, First Served

                                              Ternery Pool, Rye Harbour

Rye Harbour - 1145hrs - Misty, murky, mild, W2 - Spent a couple of hours walking the circuit around the Beach Reserve with a sea mist rolling in off the bay. The place looks like a construction site (which of course it is) at the moment with the Environment Agency in action on Flat Beach and alongside the Rother. When its all finished (April-ish) not only will the sea defences be strengthened but a series of new wildlife friendly lagoons will be created.
On Ternery Pool the first of the Black-headed Gulls had returned to claim the best nesting sites alongside half a dozen Med Gulls `kowing` loudly. A large, mixed flock of Oystercatchers, Lapwings and Golden Plovers loafed on the shingle ridges. On Flat Beach several pairs of Ringed Plovers displayed alongside a scattering of Redshank, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Curlew and Lapwing. Good views of a Rock Pipit in front of the hide.
Pat and I can confirm that the Avocet cafe and gallery is well worth a visit, serving a variety of tasty snacks.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

14 Degrees Centigrade!

Dungeness National Nature Reserve - warm, dry, sunny S2 - In the words of Dinah Washington, "What a Difference a Day Makes". Following yesterdays deluge today was positively spring-like with temperatures into the low teens by early afternoon. At Lade a superb drake Smew was on south pit, along with a Sheldrake and ten head-bobbing Goldeneyes. From the raptor viewpoint 4 Marsh Harriers, Buzzard and Kestrel thermaled over the airport while a pack of babbling Brents clipped the Peninsula and headed east.
On the ARC pit at least 9 Smew, 2 Ruddies and a Slav Grebe counted from the Screen hide. A Bittern showed briefly on Water Tower pits, as did a Firecrest in the pines by the railway track. Several more Marsh Harriers over the Desert and two singing Cetti`s Warblers in the willow scrub.

                                                                       Smew, ARC      

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Harriers and Geese

Dungeness - 0730hrs - Cold, gloomy, SE2 - An hours seawatching produced 55 Great Crested Grebes on the sea and a few Gannets east. The Glaucous Gull was roosting by the boats.
Walland Marsh - 1530hrs A large mixed flock of geese contained c400 White-fronts and 25 Barnacles. Watched two Buzzards pulling up earthworms and a harrier roost attracted 14 Marsh and 2 Hen Harriers.
Water Rails very vocal. No sign of any owls.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Ravens and a Pink-foot

Lade - 1230hrs - cold, bright, E2 - An increase in wildfowl numbers on south pit included a single Pink-footed Goose amongst 55 Grey Lags. A pair of Ravens seem to have found the area to their liking and   were perched on the wall `mirror` cronking loudly. On the sands I eventually located all ten species of wintering shorebirds, although Ringed Plover took a bit of finding.

                                     Dunlins & Sanderling, Lade Bay

Saturday, 19 February 2011

In Memory

Lade - 0900hrs - Wet, overcast, misty, SE3 - Nothing much of note here apart from 15 Goldeneyes on north pit.
Dungeness - 1000hrs A gathering of Dungeness regulars raised a glass of very nice Polish vodka this morning to coincide with Ray Turley`s cremation in Goa. The weather at the point was foul, but the brisk south-easterly blew plenty of Gannets and Kitts close to shore as the Glaucous Gull patrolled nearby. Ray would have appreciated a Bonxie putting in an appearance, as skuas were his favourite seabirds.
RSPB Reserve - 1100hrs Trudged around the pits in awful weather conditions seeing very little apart from the expected wildfowl. No sign of the Penduline Tit over the road on ARC, but ten Smew and a flying Bittern from the Screen hide brightened up an otherwise depressing day.

                                                           Farewell old friend

Friday, 18 February 2011


North Downs - 1400hrs  Visited a wood on the North Downs this afternoon with Marshman, the Joker and Powerwalker. A pre-roost walk delivered cracking views of a stoat. On arrival at the roost site several Siskins heard `zinging` overhead and 2 Hawfinches located almost immediatley perched atop a spruce. They soon disappeared, but 20 minutes later another 3 Hawfinches (2 cocks, one hen) arrived along with a near perfect cock Brambling and showed in full view for half an hour, followed by much drooling through `scopes. Back at the car we celebrated with tea and blueberry muffins.

                                                   A poor shot, but you get the idea

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Raptors, Bittern and a Penduline Tit

Lade - 1100hrs - Warm, dry, sunny, E2 The spring like weather had the desired effect with a pair of Great Crested Grebes and a party of Goldeneyes displaying on south pit. From the raptor lookout noted 6 Marsh Harriers and a pair each of Buzzard and Sparrowhawk soaring over the farmland between the `mirrors` and the airport. A pair of Ravens made their presence felt by mobbing the Buzzards.
ARC - 1415hrs - News of a Penduline Tit on the bulrushes in front of Hanson hide drew a steady crowd of locals. By the time I arrived it wasnt playing ball but was eventually relocated in the reed bed at the end of the Willow Trail. Had poor views of it tearing into a bulrush about 100 yards distant. I presume this is the same bird that has been seen on and off since last autumn.
Walked down to the Screen hide with Barney and checked out a small flock of Lottis in the buckthorn en-route; all standard British race I`m afraid. In the hide chatted to Mick Sinden about Ray until I noticed a Bittern moving through an open part of the reed bed 20 yards away. Mick murdered it with his long lens and even I managed a few digi-pics. A cracking drake Smew stayed to the far side of the channel with a harem of 6 redheads.
                                          Bittern - Dungeness ARC - Feb 2011

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Ray Turley

Yesterday afternoon I heard the shocking news that Ray Turley had died whilst on holiday in Goa. The sense of loss down here amongst the Dungeness birding community is difficult to convey, but at this moment in time my thoughts, along with many others no doubt, are with his wife Janet.
For my part I`ve known Ray for many years but since moving to the Marsh in 2006 have got to know him and Janet really well. To say Ray was one of the great characters in British birding is an understatement. He was always great company in the field and had an incredible eye for detail borne out by an artistic bent. As a seawatcher he was in a class of his own and early mornings in the seawatch hide at Dungeness just won't be the same without Ray, breaking wind and calling out incoming Poms halfway across Rye Bay!
The last time I saw him was just before they went to Goa, when Pat and I joined Janet, Chris and Carol Philpott, Mark and Janice Hollingworth for dinner at their Greatstone bungalow. It was a cracking night and Ray was on fine form showing off his latest bird videos on the giant tv screen. Ray Turley, old mate, you will be sorely missed.

                         Ray in full flow at Plovers last spring                                   


Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Tuesday, 15th February - Cloudy, SE5.
Dungeness - 0830hrs - An hours seawatching from the boats produced a steady stream of auks, mainly Guillemots, westwards, plus Gannets, Kittiwakes and 25 Red-throated Divers. The wintering Glaucous Gull was patrolling the foreshore and a group of 150 Brents headed upchannel.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Ducks and Harriers

Sunday 13th February - Cloudy, mild, southerly 4/5, heavy showers
Lade - 1000hrs A disappointing WeBS count this morning with hardly any birds on south pit due to a brisk southerly. North pit held 216 Pochard and 8 Goldeneye. The airspace over the airport fields was thick with hundreds of corvids and Woodpigeons, disturbed by a couple of harriers. A pair of Ravens joined the throng.
Romney Marsh - 1600hrs Did the monthly roost count this afternoon in dreadful weather conditions. Only 15 Marsh Harriers came to roost, plus a ringtail.  

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Dungeness Seawatch

Saturday 12th February - Mild, overcast, drizzle, SSW2
Dungeness - 0900hrs An overcast yet mild morning with light drizzle. An hours seawatch from the hide produced a steady westward flow of auks, Red-throated Divers, Gannets, Kittiwakes and assorted gulls. Some of the auks were close enough to id as Razorbills. One party of 120 Brents clipped the point heading east.
Good to see a few passerines around the Old Light with singing Linnet and Dunnock, plus Pied Wagtail, Greenfinch and Mipit. On the drive out noted the wintering Glaucous Gull on the shingle by the concrete road.


Burrowes - 1015hrs No sign of yesterdays reported Scaup. At least 150 Shoveler amongst the common wildfowl. Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow on the feeders, and a Peregrine on the shingle ridges by the bee hives.
ARC - 1115hrs At least 15 Smew here (including two drakes), 20 Goldeneye, 8 Shelducks and two Little Egrets. Several Marsh Harriers on the wing and a couple of Tree Sparrows in the car park.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Red-necked Grebe at Denge Marsh

Friday 11th February – Mild, overcast, SW2
Denge Marsh – 1400hrs From Springfield Bridge a pair of Stonechats feeding along the edge of Denge Marsh sewer were my first of the year at Dungeness. A Raven called overhead, while the flood held a mixture of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, several Shelducks and about 100 Lapwings. On the open water a Red-necked Grebe, which has been present since last Sunday, showed well in front of the hide. This is only my third since moving to the Marsh five years ago and are pretty rare down here. The wintering Black-necked Grebe was also still present along with displaying Great Crested Grebes and Dabchicks. Had cracking views of a Cetti`s Warbler on the walk back to the bridge.


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

6th-7th February 2011

Sunday 6th February – Mild, cloudy, SW6
Dungeness – 1000hrs – Did a quick half an hour seawatch from the boats this morning in dreadful conditions with a big sea running and plenty of mist and spray restricting visibility. A steady supply of auks, grebes, divers and gulls milling around the point, plus a handful of Gannets. Located the wintering 1st winter Glaucous Gull on the beach, which seemed completely at ease in the foul weather.
ARC – 1045hrs From the road at the south end two Smew and a Little Egret alongside the causeway.
RSPB – 1100hrs – Showed 12 visiting birdwatchers around the circuit on what was entitled a `Wildfowl Walk`. Burrowes resembled a little sea with ducks sheltering from the strong wind behind islands and the bund adjacent to Scott hide. All common species noted. On Denge Marsh good views of Raven tearing apart a rabbit carcass and two low flying Marsh Harriers. Tree Sparrows and Reed Buntings on the car park feeders.

Monday 7th February – Mild, cloudy, SW5
Dungeness – 0900hrs From the fishing boats a steady stream of Brents moved east with at least 500 in a couple of hours. At the Patch the usual melee involving hundreds of gulls, plus an immature Great Black-back on the beach with a numbered ring that was probably from Norway according to David Walker.